By Justin McDaniel
In many parts of the country, hiking in winter just isn’t possible. But in Southern California, it’s almost the perfect time to get in some hikes. The crowds are smaller – most people are skiing – the scenery is spectacular, and, though it is still cold, it is not unbearable.
Where to get some ideas for hikes? To start with, the California Department of Parks and Recreation lists a few perfect-for-winter hikes on its website, including one of my favorite: Malibu Creek State Park (pictured above). In Malibu Creek you can take a short hike of less than one mile, or you can spend the whole afternoon looping around the various trails. As long as it’s not raining, the weather is always pleasant.
I’ve done plenty of winter hikes in Southern California. I’ll tell you about one of my favorites: In the San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Islip (above) is a hike that isn’t mentioned as much as the more well-known Mount Baldy or Mount Wilson, but the views from the 8,250-foot peak are amazing, looking out onto the high desert in one direction and the ocean in another.
There is another hike, in the San Bernardino Mountains, that I’ve wanted to do for a few years now but never gotten around to : Dry Lake. Sitting just below Mt. San Gorgonio – which rises more than 11,000 feet – Dry Lake is a strenuous, 14-mile round trip with a 2200-foot elevation gain. It is so high that the cold weather conditions can exist until summer. Sounds awesome: have any of you been there?
Finally, the website USParks.com has a list of the best state parks to visit in winter in every state. In California, it lists Anza-Borrego, where the desert wildflowers start blooming in late winter every year. I have not been to Anza-Borrego in the winter, but I know there are at least a dozen hikes that range from short, half-mile pleasure walks to several-miles-long hikes that gain more than 1000 feet.
Do you have anything to add to the list? Do you know a hike that is especially pleasant in the winter?
Justin McDaniel has been writing professionally for more than a decade and hiking the trails of the Angeles for almost three decades